In this transcript, all words including speakers, ambient sound, and music notes will appear in size 11 black type. Ambient sound notes and music notes are italicized. Speaker names are bolded and in all caps. Narration will be capitalized.
Music: In this transcript, music will appear in black, italicized, size 11 type. Descriptions of music will be indented away from speaker text.
- ANDREW “FINNY” FINSNESS: Mushroom farmer, former beer brewer/drinker, user of psychedelics/entheogens. Finny’s interview takes place in his garage, which is also his mushroom farm. He describes the benefits of mushrooms, discusses how he moved from one substance that gave him meaning (beer) to another (fungi). He recounts a psychedelic-induced vision.
- RICH SCHUMACHER: Member of Asheville Mycological Society. Mushroom forager. I tagged along on a foray with Rich in the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. He’s been seeking out morels for some years, beginning as a child when his mother would cook them. I’ve included him, because going on a foray with him takes the audience into the natural environment of mushrooms. He finds solace in nature and by extension, mushrooms, which keep him honest.
- DIANA QUINN: Naturopathic doctor based in Detroit. I spoke with Diana over Zoom. She brings a social systems approach to the story. While the other two characters speak directly to the benefits of mushrooms, she talks more about the social systems that surround psychedelics and the importance of building community around them.
- MUSHROOM (MORGEN CHANG): Actor, Morgen Chang, reads narration from the perspective of a mushroom. She comments on the nature of being a mushroom, as well as the benefits humans derive from seeking and consuming mushrooms.
- ABE LEVINE- NARRATOR: This is my voice.
End Transcript Key
Theme music enters: The sounds of a kalimba (thumb piano) altered leads to an ethereal, slightly ominous introduction to the piece, specifically, the mushroom.
What am I?
Not plant or human
Nor the earth or the roots, but present throughout
Connector, life-giver and vessel.
Hungry and seeking.
Ethereal kalimba sounds plays underneath
I HAD HEARD WHISPERS ABOUT HOW MUSHROOMS HELD POWER. THEY COULD GIVE PEOPLE VISIONS, THEY CONNECTED ENTIRE FORESTS, AND THEY WERE ESSENTIAL IN FIXING HUMAN CONUNDRUMS. I WANTED TO TALK TO PEOPLE ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES WITH MUSHROOMS. I FOUND THREE, WHOSE LIVES REVOLVED AROUND FUNGI- A MUSHROOM FARMER, A HOLISTIC HEALER, AND A FORAGER. THIS IS WHAT THEY SEE. I WOULD BE REMISS IF I DIDN’T ALSO ASK A MUSHROOM ABOUT PEOPLE.
This is my walking stick, my third leg. It’s also got a carved morel on top of it.
Brief walking sounds
RICH SCHUMACHER IS A MEMBER OF THE ASHEVILLE MYCOLOGICAL SOCIETY IN NORTH CAROLINA. HE’S ALSO A FORAGER WHO KEEPS METICULOUS RECORDS OF HIS FORAYS. TODAY, HE’S TAKING ME TO SOME OF HIS MOST COVETED HAUNTS.
A bad day morel hunting always beats a day at work
Truck engine starts. .
RICH AND I DRIVE ON WINDING ROAD, PAST SAGGING BARNS AND RUSTED OUT TRUCKS. WE’RE HEADED INTO THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS.
Music from truck plays. You hear Rich talking in the car in the background.
In, around the Ashville area, they call these the Blue Ridge Mountains. But it’s all part of the Appalachian chain of mountains. It’s not as noticeable today, but on certain days when you see a, a, a Ridge in the distance, it looks, it looks blue.
Hear truck sounds driving over gravel
Kids are quite good at finding morels.
Truck driving over gravel. Door ajar dinging. Jacket zipping up. Sounds of traipsing on leaves.
You may think you’ve got them figured out and, uh, the next, next year they’ll prove you dead wrong. So they have their own mind. And, uh, they’re very fickle when it comes to, uh, temperature conditions. They don’t like it too hot or too cold. Uh, they don’t like the soil to be too dry or too wet, uh, or too warm or too cold.
Sounds of truck driving over gravel.
I keep people on their toes and humble. I teach patience, and I’m a reminder of why people need each other.
Etherial kalimba music comes in.
You don’t like the way that one looks, uh, and you look back and you, you go, Oh my God, I walked right by it.
Leaves crunching. Sounds of water stream.
Oh, I found one too. You got one? Yeah, a funny looking one. Okay. It looks like it might’ve been partially eaten. I don’t know!
Leaves crunching. Rick says “Way to go Abe,” in the background.
When I start thinking about other things, no matter what it is, I’m not going to see as many. So I always try to just keep a picture of a Morel in my mind and keep focused on why I’m out here.
Truck driving over gravel.
MUSHROOMS HAVE A WAY OF FORMING RELATIONSHIPS WHERE BOTH PARTNERS NOT ONLY GET WHAT THEY NEED, BUT ALSO TRANSFORM WHEN BOUND TOGETHER. ANDREW FINNY FINSNESS IS A MUSHROOM FARMER. WHILE THE CULINARY MUSHROOMS HE GROWS COME IN ALL SHAPES AND STRIPES, A SPECIFIC, FUNKY KIND OF MUSHROOM FOUND HIM WHEN HE NEEDED TO PUSH BEYOND HIS LIMITS. MUSHROOMS BLUR THE LINES BETWEEN BEINGS. SOMETIMES THEY SEEK A HOST, AND AT OTHER TIMES THEY’RE SOUGHT OUT.
New kalimba music comes in and fades out. Pitcha and echo not altered like initial music.
Yeah, so the name of the business is Finney and the fun guy, because it’s a mutual symbiosis between me and this other organism. And we grow gourmet mushrooms here. Uh, so varieties like blue oyster, uh, black Pearl, Lion’s mane.
WE ARE IN LINDSTROM, MINNESOTA. IT’S A REALLY SUNNY DAY WITH A STRONG BREEZE. AND I’M LOOKING AT FINNY’S GARAGE RIGHT NOW.
Sound of a breeze hitting mic.
What you’re lookin’ at is, uh, myceliated blocks… people think, Oh, well, we’re eating this organism, but really the mushroom is the fruiting body of another organism called mycelium.
I’M SEEING WHAT LOOKS LIKE FOAM AND COFFEE GROUNDS
So, there’s no coffee grounds and no foam. It’s myceliated grain. We put about a quarter cup of these little grains into that bigger five pound bag. And then we shake it up. So it’s completely colonized the block and we’ve essentially made a little log for these things to live in and to start eating their food.
Sounds of uncrumpling a plastic bag of myceliated grains.
To the upright animals, I can be quite appealing and alluring. They like how I taste and the way I smell of the untamed earth.
Kalimba music returns. Mushroom voice echoes with reverb.
The first time I ever smelled oyster mushroom mycelium, when I started messing around with this. It struck a primal nerve in my brain. Like I smelled this smell and was like, Oh my God, I want to smell that more.
I chart my own course, seeking nourishment from things both living and dead, offering the nutrients I’ve absorbed in exchange for assistance.
Kalimba music comes in. Echoed voice continues.
They know how to get other organisms to do their bidding. I wouldn’t be surprised if these mushrooms have figured out how to get what they want for me.
Though I don’t necessarily need to think, I can focus minds and add color to grey matter. The reactions I provoke in people can range from death to rebirth. People come to me seeking answers.
Ethereal kalimba music begins, then switches to clear, upbeat kalimba.
So I asked the mushrooms out and I asked them for help. I hadn’t gone a day without drinking since I was, since I was 19, you know, 18, 19. And then about three years ago, I got sick with pancreatitis and I had to stop drinking. Once I was told by the doctors that I had to quit drinking, it was kind of, um, it was, it was a real hard bit of news. Given that I’d become this person with alcohol that I liked better than the person I was before alcohol- who am I gonna be? Am I gonna be the same person, even? So I started to experiment with psilocybin, the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms.
And I remember one trip where, uh, I had this vision of myself with a beer in my hand and saw myself up there. And then I had a vision of myself without a beer.
People seek connection and grounding, and a path forward through darkness. And darkness is where my roots lie.
Mushrooms, just so you know, they’re going to bring you right to whatever it is that you’re trying to turn away from.
RECENTLY, DIFFERENT STATES AND CITIES HAVE PASSED MEASURES ALLOWING FOR THE CONTROLLED, THERAPEUTIC USE OF PSYCHEDELICS. OREGON WAS THE FIRST TO LEGALIZE SHROOMS FOLLOWED BY DENVER, OAKLAND, AND WASHINGTON D.C. WHILE THIS IS EXCITING NEWS FOR MANY IN THE PSYCHEDELIC COMMUNITY, NOT EVERYBODY FEELS THE SAME. NATUROPATHIC DOCTOR, DIANA QUINN, ISN’T SURE THAT THE REGULATION AND MONEY FLOWING INTO RESEARCHING HALLUCINOGENS WILL WILL BENEFIT EVERYBODY.
Kalimba music comes in midway.
Let’s take Oregon-you know, measure 109. That legalizes, psilocybin therapy, there’s already deep inequity built into the language of the measure that passed, right?
SHE SAYS THAT SELECT FEW PEOPLE WILL BE ABLE TO GROW OR HANDLE THESE NATURAL MEDICINES.
So the criteria requires that someone not have a criminal record, that they be a property owner that they evidence that they have good standing financially. And that they’d be of so-called good character. Well, who decides what good character is, right?
Given the powers I have to make people feel connected and counter-cultural, it’s no surprise the government declared me illegal in the 70’s. I went from traditional medicine to pariah. The laws stated that I had no potential for medical use whatsoever. So what, now I’ll be in the hands of the people who first outlawed me? What about the community healers?
…To try and reconnect, so this is actually one of the things that got me into sacred plant medicine.
DIANA WANTED TO SUTURE AN ANCESTRAL LINEAGE THAT HAD BEEN SEVERED.
So, I identify as Chicana. I’m second generation Mexican American on my maternal side. I don’t know what indigenous tribal lineage my people come from. That information has been lost. So, I have been really fortunate to have been invited and welcomed into, um, indigenous ceremony with the Wixaraca on numerous occasions.
MAGIC MUSHROOMS CAME TO THE WEST THROUGH AN INDIGENOUS HEALER NAMED MARIA SABINA IN THE 50’S. SHE WELCOMED THE MYCOLOGIST-BANKER, GORDON WASSON INTO A SHAMANISTIC CEREMONY. WASSON WAS WRITING AN ARTICLE ABOUT PSYCHEDELICS FOR LIFETIME MAGAZINE, THOUGH HE ALSO RECEIVED FUNDING FROM THE CIA FOR ITS RESEARCH INTO MIND CONTROL- A PROJECT KNOWN AS MK ULTRA.
CONTEMPORARY RESEARCH INTO THE THERAPEUTIC BENEFITS OF PSYCHEDELIC MUSHROOMS HAVE THEIR ORIGINS IN THIS INVITATION FROM AN INDIGENOUS WOMAN NATIVE TO OAXACA, MEXICO. YET, QUINN SAYS NATIVE PEOPLE AND PEOPLE OF COLOR AREN’T BEING INCLUDED IN PRESENT DAY TRIALS.
Most of the studies that I’ve seen, the, uh, demographics of the population are over 90% white.
People who experience ongoing structural harm and ongoing daily microaggressions have a different experience of psychedelics, have a different set of needs, have a different, um, possibly different, you know, healing outcomes.
DIANA WORKS WITH A TEAM OF FACILITATORS IN DETROIT TO OFFER INCLUSIVE SPACES FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR AND LGBTQIA+ FOLKS TO PROCESS THEIR PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCES
It’s not therapy. No one’s giving advice. It’s really just a space where people come with open hearts to share about their own experiences. What emerges out of a community, a community space is something unique. And I feel that that’s deeply therapeutic. I feel that it’s spiritual.
Take a moment to settle in. Maybe you want to put a hand on your belly, maybe one hand on your chest and just allow yourself to get present. (fades out)
Though I can break down tough materials, from lignin to rock and even cigarette butts, it’s on the walking, talking types to move through their own walls. I’m merely a potent intermediary. In the end, I reflect back the potential for relationship and ancient appreciation for intermingling.
Morels teach me more than religion does about patience, about hope, about humility, and faith,I guess you would say.
Truck sounds in the background.
And to be vulnerable together about whatever our experiences are. Maybe they’re ecstatic and pleasurable and really fantastic, and maybe they’re really hard.
The work doesn’t get done mostly in how you apply, what you’ve learned from that trip in your life.
It’s a really beautiful thing.